Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Bee's Balls Birthday Dinner

For years on my birthday I would claim to be twenty-nine.  That is until I was called out by my children.  With hands on their hips they said, "Mom you've been twenty-nine for a long time, how old are you really?"  Now fast forward, there is no way I would want to be twenty-nine!  I cherish each and every birthday and love celebrating them with the people I love.  As I have for several years, I plan my own day and prepare my birthday meal.  I love doing this.  I do not expect others to do it for me, I just want them to join in on my celebration.

This year on my special day a friend and I hiked The River Wildlife Management Area at Ijams Nature Center to view the 70 areas of Sunflowers.  It was 91'  and the sun was high and hot!  There was hundreds of others who had the same idea or maybe they were there to observe my birthday with me.   Hmmm, how did they know?

Following our afternoon in the sun, Karen and I, with our men folk gathered at the house for an Italian feast followed by birthday cake.  Summer Strawberry Coconut Cake with a scoop of Strawberry Ice-Cream is one of my favorites.  It was a perfect way to end the evening.

Bee's Balls
Meat Ball Ingredients:
1 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup diced yellow onions
4 cloves garlic (minced)
1/2 pound Italian Sausage
1/2 pound ground beef
1 large egg (yolk & white divided)
1/4 cup garlic breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese 
1 tablespoon fresh basil (chopped) 
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley (chopped)
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 ounces mozzarella balls
2 boxes puff pastry, you will have one sheet left over, keep it in the freezer.
Meat Balls Directions:
1.  Preheat the oven to 400'.
2.  Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a medium skillet, cook the diced onions 3-5 minutes.
3.  Add the garlic, cook for an additional minute.
4.  Add the Italian sausage and ground beef to a large mixing bowl.
5.  Add the cooked onion & garlic, egg yolk, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, basil, parsley, oregano, salt and black pepper.
6.  Mix together.
7.  Form into 9 large meatballs, filling each with one mozzarella ball.
8.  Grease a baking sheet and place meatball on and bake 400'  for 18 minutes.
9.  When done, cover and place meatballs in the refrigerator to get cold.

Lasagna Cheese Filling Ingredients:
15 ounce cheese (drained overnight)
1 (10 ounce) frozen chopped spinach, squeeze out juice really well (spinach is optional), personally I found that other than visual you couldn't tell much of a difference.
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic pepper 
1/8 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
Lasagna Cheese Filling Instructions:
1.  Drain ricotta cheese overnight.  To do so, put in a mesh strainer and set in a bowl and cover in the refrigerator.  
2.  Thaw and drain frozen spinach, squeeze out all excess liquid.  Set aside.
3.  Crack egg into a large mixing bowl and gently beat with fork.  Add ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan cheese, stir to combine.  Stir in Italian seasoning, garlic pepper and red pepper flakes.  Add spinach, salt and pepper.  Mixture can be stored in the fridge for up to three days. 

Marinara Sauce Ingredients: (Can also be made ahead and frozen.) My experience is 1 cup if two balls and 3/4 cup for 1.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 whole yellow or white onion, diced
5 cloves garlic (minced)
2 whole large carrots, peeled and finely diced
2 cans (28 ounces each) whole tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons minced fresh oregano
2 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley, plus more for serving
Marinara Sauce Directions:
1.  In a medium pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, garlic and carrots and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2.  Pour the tomatoes and juice in a large bo
wl and use your hands to gently squish/smush the tomatoes so that the juices are released and they are all broken up.  Add the contents of the bowl to the pot and stir.  Add the salt, pepper , sugar and oregano.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
3.  Add minced fresh parsley at the end and taste/adjust the sauce for seasonings.  I then use an Immersion Blender at this point to chop up the bigger chunks.  I do not puree it, just leave it very little pieces.  This can also be made ahead.  Keep refrigerated.  Recipe from:

Bee's Balls Directions:
1.  On your countertop sprinkle with flour, using a rolling pin to roll the sheet of puff pastry into a 12"X12" square.   You can roll it out larger and only use 1 box of puff pastry if you want.
2.  Cut into 4 squares or 6 if you roll it out larger.
3.  Place on meatball on the square of puff pastry.  Top with lasagna cheese filling.  Wrap each in a ball, tucking the puff pastry on the bottom.  You can freeze at this point.
4.  To bake frozen preheat oven to 375' and place each on a parchment lined baking sheet, brush with a mixtures of (4 Tablespoons melted butter, 2 garlic cloves minced, 1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning and a pinch of salt) and bake for 45 minutes. If unfrozen, you are baking them fresh bake for 20-25 minutes.  Serve with Marinara Sauce.  Optional top with grated parmesan cheese and chopped basil.
These are pretty filling.  Our experience was 2 Bee's Balls per male and 1 per female.  

Summer Strawberry Coconut Cake

Birthday Girl Thats Me

 Karen and I spent the afternoon at the Ijams Nature Center where we hiked to the Forks Of The River Wildlife Management Area where 70 acres of sunflowers are planted.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Lemon-Buttermilk Icebox Pie with Lemon-Blueberry Topping

The sun had set as we sat on the porch.  Our stomachs full after dinner, but still room for dessert.  I served this refreshing pie.  For one guest it brought memories of his father, as it was his favorite.  Another said lemon pie had been on her mind recently.  It seems as though I made the right choice, but my thinking is, no dessert is ever wrong.

Summer in the South calls for quick and easy icebox pies when its steamy outside.  The Lemon-Buttermilk Icebox Pie with Lemon-Blueberry Topping is the perfect recipe for a dinner party.  Its cool and refreshing, a splendid ending to your meal.

Lemon-Buttermilk Icebox Pie 
Lemon-Blueberry Topping

Pie Ingredients:
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened  condensed milk
1 tablespoon loosely packed lemon zest
1/2 cup freshly lemon juice
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup buttermilk
Graham Cracker Crust (baked), follow the directions on the box of Graham Cracker Crumbs to make pie crust.
Vegetable cooking spray

Pie Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 325'.  Whisk together first 3 ingredients in a bowl.

2.  Beat egg yolks with a handheld mixer in a medium bowl at high speed 4-5 minutes or until yolks become pale and ribbons form on surface of mixture when beater is lifted.  Gradually whisk in sweetened condensed milk mixture, whisk until thoroughly combined.  Whisk in buttermilk.  Pour mixture into baked graham cracker crust.

3.  Bake at 325' for 20-25 minutes or until set around edges.  (pie will be slightly jiggly.)  Cool on a wire rack 1 hour.  Cover pie with lightly greased (with cooking spray) plastic wrap, and freeze 4-6 hours.  Top with Lemon-Blueberry Topping and whipping cream just before serving.
Great make ahead pit.  I take it out of the freezer about an hour before serving and put it in the refrigerator.   Recipe from

Lemon-Blueberry Topping Ingredients:
2 cups fresh blueberries, divided
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest

Lemon-Blueberry Topping Directions:
Bring 1 cup blueberries, sugar, water, lemon juice and lemon zest to a bowl in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, 8-19 minutes or until mixture has thickened and berries begin to break down.  Remove from heat and stir in remaining 1 cup blueberries.  Cool completely (about 1 hour) cover and chill until ready to use.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

July 4th In Banner Elk

The last day of our road trip led us to Banner Elk.  Stone and I soon found the perfect parking spot and sat up our chairs.  We had about an hour and a half until the parade was to start so we took off for a walk around town.  It was early morning and others that had arrived to have the best viewing of the parade were have breakfast picnics.  Kids where running around all dressed in there patriotic attire.

 It was a beautiful day as the parade marched along Main Street where the crowd was lined up all adorned in red, white and blue.   Following the procession we attended the Dunn's Deli 11th Annual 4th of July Pig Roast and Lawn Party.  Our July 4th get away has been jam packed with music, dancing, parades, Hog Roast, fireworks, hiking, Low Country Shrimp Boil, and lastly the Pig Roast and lots of ice-cream.

Stone and I 

These guy's had the ladies cheering.

Stone collected him some beads.  Apparently all the ladies in the parade loved him.😍

This was worth the trip to Banner Elk!!!

Dunn's Deli 11th Annual 4th of July Pig Roast and Lawn Party

Last stop for ice-cream.  This time I selected Birthday Cake ice-cream.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Original Mast General Store In Valle Crucis

 When we first arrived at the Mast General I thought there wasn't many people at the store due to the fact there was only four vehicles out front.  What we didn't know was that there was a parking lot around back and it was packed.  Like us, they wanted to see where it all began in 1883.  We wondered around the store picking up a few items for Stone, and I of course got some candy.  Slowly we made our way down the street to the Mast Store Annex where around back, out by the creek they sell ice-cream and it was calling my name.  Stone and I made our selections and settled down in some chairs while enjoying our cones filled with sweet creamy goodness.  Finishing we loaded up and headed to Boone North Carolina for lunch.  Hey, there is nothing wrong with dessert first.  We ended up at an old familiar place called Macado's that we would frequent when we would come to town to visit the oldest when she was a student at Appalachian State University.  I swear the menu had not changed and the food was just as I remembered.
With full stomachs we drove over to Blowing Rock.  The town was full of life.  People and their dogs were all about.  We wondered around walking off the ice-cream and lunch before going back to Beech Mountain where a Jazz Band was playing out on the lawn at the Inn.

 The Original Mast General Store

Around back of the store where they have music on Saturdays.

 Their can never be too much candy...

 Me and my Fireball and Stone with his Orange Dream Cycle ice-cream out back along the creek behind The Mast Store Annex.

 Fireball Ice-cream
The best ice-cream I have ever eaten!!!

A little quiet time back at the Inn after a full day before heading to dinner.

Grandfather Mountain

Back in the 1760s Daniel Boone walked these forests.   Remember when Forrest Gump ran across America?  A portion of his trek was filmed on Grandfather Mountain.  Today it was Stone and I who left our tracks in these woods with many others.

Getting into the Park was slow.   The traffic was backed up due to it being July 4th weekend.  After finally getting through the gate we went straight to the restaurant.  I had to have ice-cream!  I think I've had some everyday since we left home.   Content we head out for an afternoon on the trails.

 Stone hiking along the Bridge Trail.

 The Bridge Trail is an easy winding trail through the forest that switches back and forth in a moderate climb to the Mile High Swinging Bridge.

 Stone and I on Black Rock Nature Trail.  The moderately rocky trailhead is located near the top of the mountain.

 Stone and I hurrying along.  You have to be off the trails by 6pm. or they send in a search party.


The vista from Grandfather Mountain

Beech Mountain North Carolina

Next stop on our road trip was Beech Mountain.   I see why people come here in the summer, the temps are a lot cooler.  Especially in the evening when I would have to put on my long pants.   The event that brought us here to the Beech Mountain Resort was their 47th Annual Hog Roast, followed by fireworks.  
During the day Stone and I wondered around the community and while doing so we passed the men smoking the hog and turkey.  They gave me a sample which was so good.  All it did was make me really hungry and there was still a few hours to go until dinner time.  

Beech Alpen Inn

 As soon as I took this picture, a deer strolled over and ate the flowers.

 At the Alpen Inn, they feed the deer.   The deer wonder around the property, keeping their distance but not running away.

 These men were hard at work getting the meat ready for the event.

 Cheerwine, made in North Caroline.

 I was ready for my bbq.

 A bonus, they had Moon Pie's.

Once it was dark, the fireworks began on the mountain.  I thought they look like sea creatures.